STORY WRITTEN BY MONICA THOMPSON FRAGALE
For Digital First Media
The Bryn Mawr Performing Arts Series will showcase the Trisha Brown Dance Company in its season opener this month.
The dance company will perform “Proscenium Works, 1979-2011” on Oct. 23 and 24; the performances at Bryn Mawr are also part of a year-long Philadelphia-area retrospective of the internationally renowned dancer, choreographer and director’s work.
“Trisha Brown was one of the people who figured out how to choreograph momentum so that the actions are happening with the force of gravity and momentum, working with physics,” said Lisa Kraus, a former dancer with the Trisha Brown Dance Company who heads the college’s Performing Arts Series. Kraus is also the curator of the year-long festival of Brown’s works, titled “Trisha Brown: In the New Body.”
Carolyn Lucas, one of the artistic directors with the Trisha Brown Dance Company, called Brown’s works timeless.
“She pioneered her own movement vocabulary, and redefined how we look at dance,” Lucas said in a telephone interview. “Trisha was so pioneering in terms of exploring the body relative to gravity and momentum.”
“Proscenium Works,1979-2011,” a three-year, international tour, is designed to “celebrate Trisha’s work for the proscenium stage.” Brown’s earlier works were given in lofts and galleries, or outdoors. When she chose to choreograph for the stage, she collaborated with other noted artists and upended theatrical conventions. The proscenium is the term for the frame that defines the stage space. The company has performed around the world, and its Bryn Mawr appearance will be some of the concluding proscenium stage performances of the tour.
“Brown’s movement has always had a quality of daring about it,” Kraus said. “She tried to figure out how to get dancers to dance on the wall, or on rooftops – things that really expanded our definition of dance.
“She was really interested in exploring the body in all dimensions and in embracing falling. Trisha also kept dancing herself, asking, ‘Where have I not gone before?’”
Lucas, who herself danced with Brown and the dance company, described Brown as starting each day anew. “As a dancer, every movement was newly developed,” she said. “You could go for years without repeating a movement. Trisha would just go into the studio every day like it was a blank canvas.”
The three dances on the “Proscenium Works” works program are classics. “Set and Reset,” “PRESENT TENSE” and “If you couldn’t see me,” which Brown choreographed in response to a challenge from Robert Rauschenberg to create a dance where the audience only sees her back.
“If you couldn’t see me” was Brown’s final solo performance. “Never facing the audience, the dancer relies on her body’s suppleness for personal expression. Now this ‘absence’ of the dancer’s face is emblematic of Brown’s personal retirement,” wrote Kraus in the project’s brochure.
The “Trisha Brown: In the New Body” project is designed to provide both newcomers and those familiar with Brown’s work a complete experience. The project features partners including the Barnes Foundation, Pennsylvania Ballet, and others area colleges. Support has come from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage
“People in Philadelphia are very lucky to have this experience,” Lucas said. “It’s such a major undertaking that Lisa has done. There are so many perspectives other than the performances themselves.”
On Saturday, Oct. 24 a “triple feature” focused on Brown’s works begins at 5:30 p.m. when the dance company offers a free performance of “Floor of the Forest” – where dancers weave in and out of a frame of fabric suspended above the ground.
“It really stretches our idea of what dance is,” Kraus said.
At 6:15 p.m., Canaday Library at Bryn Mawr College will host a free gallery talk in “Re(framing) Collaboration,” the exhibition featuring visual art works by Brown and her collaborators.
The following day, Oct. 25, features two free performances of “Floor of the Forest” – at 1 and 2:30 p.m. – and a 1:30 p.m. film screening.
More information about lectures, classes and other events can be found online at trishabrown.brynmawr.edu.
As the Trisha Brown Dance Company finishes its “Proscenium Works, 1979-2011” tour, they look forward to sharing their new site-specific program model, Trisha Brown: In Plain Site. The Company is also focusing on other means of preserving its namesake’s legacy. Education is a big focus, Lucas said, adding that there are “exciting” educational projects planned around the world.
Plans are also in the works for a “living archive” of Brown’s works, and dance companies are licensing Brown’s repertory, according to Lucas. The dance company also has a two-year partnership with Bard College in New York.
“We are excited to keep alive and well and preserve Trisha’s legacy,” said Lucas.
IF YOU GO
What: Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series presents “Proscenium Works, 1979-2011” by the Trisha Brown Dance Company
Where: McPherson Auditorium, Goodhart Hall, Bryn Mawr College
When: Friday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 24 – both days at 8 p.m.
Info.: Check www.brynmawr.edu/arts/series.html and www.trishabrowncompany.org
What: “Trisha Brown: In the New Body” – a year-long retrospective and collaboration featuring the works of Trisha Brown
Where: Bryn Mawr College, 101 N. Merion Ave, Bryn Mawr.
Details: On Oct. 24, 2015, see a triple feature of Trisha Brown’s works at the college. At 5:30 p.m., there will be a free performance of “Floor of the Forest.” At 6:15 p.m. there is a free gallery talk on the (Re)framing collaboration and the exhibit. And at 8 p.m., “Proscenium Works, 1979-2011” will be performed by the Trisha Brown Dance Company.
On Oct. 25, free performances of “Floor of the Forest” will be offered at 1 and 2:30 p.m., and a film screening will be shown at 1:30.
There are other events as part of “Trisha Brown: In the New Body” that span the next half-year, including workshops for area dancers, an open studio look at the collaboration with the Pennsylvania Ballet, and more.
Info.: Check http://trishabrown.brynmawr.edu